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Whew… I just woke up from a nap. After a solid 9 hours of sound sleep last night it seems by body is recovering from an overabundance of physical exertion- or maybe just comfy bed withdrawal. Last night we returned to Cusco from our 5 day trek through the Salkantay pass to Machu Picchu. It was well worth the $$ we dropped on it.
Wayki means ‘brother’ in Quechua. It’s used with much love and respect. We didn’t know this, of course, when we signed up with Wayki Trek for our trip to the Macchuist Picchu of all Machu Picchus. Our kickass guide, José Cussi- a likely descendant of Inca Pachacuti, taught us that cuchi ullo (or ‘pig face’ in Quechua- specifically referring to the dirty quality of a pig’s face, so really ‘dirty faced boy’) is more commonly used amongst friends… and if that doesn’t suit you, cachero (or ‘man who has sex with woman’) works too. He taught me much about the politics and economics of Peru, helping me practice my Spanish and pass the time on the long hours hiking through the stunning Andes. He also explained to me the intricacies of ‘senoritas con costumbres de senoras,’ which only makes sense once you understand that senoritas are supposed to be pure virgins. We all enjoyed his cute little jokes, like saying we were only x minutes and 7 seconds away from anywhere, and that it’s his job to lie to us… and he seemed to follow along well enough when we had rambunctious arguments in English, even throwing in fitting comments here and there.
But what really made me like him was his passion for the Quechua culture, and his sadly reverent attitude about the long-destroyed Incas. His parents sent him to live with his grandparents in the country until he was six where he learned the Quechua language and customs. Then he moved into the city to learn the language of ‘modern civilization’: castellano. Now he’s Catholic. But Catholics here are like nowhere else- they believe in all that Christian mumbo-jumbo, but they also believe in the gods of the mountains (Apus), the sun, the moon, and the earth (Pachamama). They even practice some of the ceremonial customs from pre-Incan times. It’s a wonderful mix of cultures that gives me hope when thinking about the continual disaster of ethnocide.
With José the Inca at our side we journeyed some 80 km through Andean highlands, cloud forests, and jungles. Arrieros, or horsemen, took care of our rough-sacks and tents, and the cook and his assistant made sure we had tasty food to fill our bellies three times a day. So really, we felt quite pampered. No matter how sore we were, we didn’t say much (very loud) because we knew the others worked twice as hard. Watching them set up and take down our tents took some getting used to… but they didn’t want us to help. “Relájate,” they say. “No más…” At least we tipped them well.
Luckily for all of you, I won’t go into tremendous detail about the events of that trek, except for the following highlights:
* We climbed higher than I’ve ever been on land: 4645 meters above sea level.
* We saw how Andean people live at all levels of the Andean wilderness.
* We bathed in hot springs in the middle of nowhere.
* One of our companions contracted Typhoid.
* On the second to last day we finally saw Machu Picchu from above at ruins a couple kms away. It almost made me cry.
* I climbed Wayna Picchu, the mountain you see in all the Machu Picchu photos.
* Lada pulled through stupendously- with little to no complaints.
* The food was quite tasty.
The rest I’ll let you sort out from the photos, which should be up tonight or tomorrow.
I think it’s important to add that Machu Picchu is by far the more beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. No words can describe that place. Just go see it for yourself… you’ll be blown away too.